Pundit Wire

Author Archives: Hal Gordon

Don’t Romanticize the Confederacy

tumblr_msod517M9z1s0hipbo1_1280Furl that Banner, for ’tis weary;

Round its staff ’tis drooping dreary;

Furl it, fold it, it is best;

For there’s not a man to wave it…
Photo by: Richard Norris Brooke

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How Lafayette Routed Napoleon—With a Speech

Gilbert_du_Motier_Marquis_de_Lafayette_-_high_resThe history books tell us that Napoleon was decisively defeated at the Battle of Waterloo two hundred years ago on June 18, 1815. Four days later, on June 22, he abdicated and was exiled by the British to the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic where he died in 1821.

This compressed version of events leaves out a wealth of fascinating details. It particular, it doesn’t tell us how Napoleon schemed to hold power even after Waterloo, and how the immediate cause of his abdication was not the bayonets of Wellington and Blücher, but a courageous speech by the Marquis de Lafayette.

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“A Monument to Intellectual Integrity”

LittlemoreWhen I was in England in April, I lunched with some old friends at Oxford. Then I turned my back on the majestic towers and spires of the great university and took a bus to the obscure village of Littlemore some three miles away. My destination was a row of shabby, single-story cottages that had served as a coaching station in Victorian times.

And yet, as the English writer A.N. Wilson has observed, that row of shabby cottages is, “much more than the grand colleges of Oxford, a monument to intellectual integrity.” Because it was here, in 1845, that John Henry Newman was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

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“A Dealer In Hope”

speakerNapoleon once said that a leader is “a dealer in hope.” If putting heart into people is the touchstone of leadership, then General Colin Powell is one of the outstanding leaders of our time.

I had the chance to observe the General at close range during the three years that I worked for him as his speechwriter. (See the picture of me with the General on the home page of my web side, www.ringingwords.com. I no longer have the beard but I’m still recognizable.)

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U.K. – United or Federated Kingdom?

6997132774_8fa975c208_oThe big story to emerge from Britain’s recent elections is the remarkable showing by the Scottish National Party or SNP.

The SNP went from 6 seats to 56 seats out of a total of 59 Scottish seats in the U.K. parliament. The upset, which came at the expense of Britain’s Labour Party, makes the SNP the third-largest party in parliament. The SNP is a regional party; it is a party pledged to make Scotland an independent country; and it is a party that is ideologically further to the left than the Labour Party.

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Lusitania: How the Unthinkable Happened

article-0-14059853000005DC-49_634x380One hundred years ago on May 7, just ten months after the start of the First World War, the British luxury liner RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank in just 20 minutes. Out of nearly 2,000 passengers and crew only 764 survived. The dead included 123 Americans.

To mark this tragic anniversary, I am reading the much-acclaimed new book by Erik Larson–Dead Wake: The Lusitania’s Last Crossing.

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Magic Fire

WalkureMusic critic Deems Taylor (1885-1966), who composed operas himself, once said of Richard Wagner that “There never lived a composer who was more ready with copious and articulate explanations of what he intended to do in his music—or more certain to do something quite different.”

For example: “He fulminated against the absurdity of the operatic aria, and wrote Siegmund’s Love Song; he excommunicated the operatic duet, and wrote the second act of Tristan and Isolde; he cursed the operatic ensemble number, root stock, and branch, and wrote the quintet from Die Meistersinger.”

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Gay Marriage: Who’s Sorry Now?

Rainbow_flag_breezeThe April 28 issue of the Wall Street Journal carried an editorial warning of grave consequences if the Supreme Court rules that there is a constitutional right to gay marriage.

“Discovering a fundamental right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution,” tut-tutted the Journal’s editors, “pre-empts the democratic process and assumes that the people aren’t capable of mediating their differences with decency and tolerance.”

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Posted in Civil Rights, Culture, General, Politics, Religion, Supreme Court & Judiciary, U.S. | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment